Adverse Health Events Related to Self-Medication Practices Among Elderly: A Systematic Review.

Research paper by Médéa M Locquet, Germain G Honvo, Véronique V Rabenda, Thierry T Van Hees, Jean J Petermans, Jean-Yves JY Reginster, Olivier O Bruyère

Indexed on: 02 Mar '17Published on: 02 Mar '17Published in: Drugs & Aging


Older adults often resort to self-medication to relieve symptoms of their current illnesses; however, the risks of this practice are multiplied in old age. In particular, this age group is more vulnerable to adverse drug events because of the physiological changes that occur due to senescence.The aim of the study was to obtain an overview of the adverse health events related to self-medication among subjects aged 60 years and over through a systematic review of the literature.A study of relevant articles was conducted among databases (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and EBM Reviews-Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews). Eligibility criteria were established and applied by two investigators to include suitable studies. The results and outcomes of interest were detailed in a descriptive report.The electronic search identified 4096 references, and the full texts of 74 were reviewed, of which four were retained in the analysis: three had a cross-sectional design and one prospectively followed elderly subjects. The first study showed a 26.7% prevalence of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) among elders, the second study found a 75% prevalence of side effects, and, finally, a prospective study showed an ADR incidence of 4.5% among self-medicated elders. These studies showed that adverse health events related to self-medication are relatively frequently reported. They also highlighted that analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs are the most self-medicated products, while vitamins and dietary supplements also appear to be frequently self-administered, but by older individuals.Studies on self-medication in the elderly and its adverse health effects are clearly lacking. There is a need to perform prospective studies on this topic to gain a clear understanding of the extent of this problem and to enhance the awareness of health professionals to better inform seniors.